The Oklahoma Highway Patrol was testing their new sonar equipment in Foss Lake, Oklahoma, when they discovered two cars submerged in 12 feet of water. The police assumed the cars had been stolen when they made a chilling discovery.
Their finding may help crack two cold cases spanning over 40 years. Although, it feels there are more questions than answers. This is the beginning a mystery that has haunted the state and its small town of Sayre with a population of less than 3,000 people.
Authorities do not yet know if the green 1952 Chevrolet and blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro pulled out of the lake are related. Albeit, it may not bring the closure some of the residents have been waiting for. A lot of the interested parties have died since. Nevertheless, police hope someone out there may provide more clues to help close the cases.
On November 16, 1970, 16-year-old Jimmy Allen Williams bought a cool, muscle car. His blue Camaro was a 1969 model.
Six days later the car along with its three passengers went missing. There were no clues left behind to help police find the three victims.
Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo
Jimmy Allen Williams, 16, Leah Gail Johnson, 18, and Thomas Michael Rios, 18 were typical teenagers wanting to enjoy a ride together.
The three friends were on their way to watch a football game in Elk City. That night they vanished without a trace.
Beckham County Sherrif’s Departmemt/AP Photo
Four decades later the muscle car was pulled out of the lake along with the bodies of the teens.
Williams body was found with his cowboy boots, a ring, and his bank card. Two rifles were also found in the car. Authorities believe the teenagers may have changed their minds and decided to go hunting instead.
Larissa Graham/Elk City Daily
A green 1952 Chevrolet was also discovered with three bodies.
The bodies of Cleburn Hammack, 42, John Alva Porter, 69 and Nora Marie Duncan, 58, were pulled out of the water. The trio went missing in 1969. They were last spotted asking for help getting their car started.
Despite going missing one year apart, the two cars were found alongside each other. They were about 50 feet from the end of a boat ramp.
The autopsies revealed the six people died from accidental drowning. Still, family members and residents cannot help but believe it was foul-play.
Larissa Graham/Elk City Daily
Cops at the time thought Jimmy and his friends had run away from home to join a counterculture group.
Jimmy’s family said that did not fit the teen’s profile. Plus, Jimmy had not picked up his paycheque from the grocery store worked at. The teens didn’t take any clothes or belongings with them either.
Their disappearance made a lasting impact in Sayre and the neighbouring towns. It was the families, however, who lived in agony not knowing what happened.
18-year-old Thomas Michael Rios’ mother never left Sayre. She wanted to make sure that upon his return his family would be there waiting for him. 16-year-old Jimmy Allen Williams’ mom baked him a cake every year for his birthday.
Despite the drownings being called accidental, the mystery remains.
The Camaro was found with the shifting rod in neutral. The Chevy’s driver door was found wide open.
Gary Williams was only 12 years old when his brother Jimmy went missing.
He said finding their bodies in the lake is a surreal experience, especially because he took his boat on that lake for years.
Even John Alva Porter's granddaughter said her family often visited the lake and wondered if the family man was in the water.
“I could have touched the top of their car. I was that close to them,” says Gary Williams. “That’s an unbelievable thought to know they were that close all this time and took nearly 40 years to realize it.”